Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In Increasing Measure

I love growing. I read so many self-improvement books because I value personal growth. I want to know what I'm aiming for in life and gather all the wisdom I can. I like writing in my journal personal growth goals, and today, I ponder this question:

What does it mean to become a better person?

As a Christian, I love the fact that God manages and empowers our improvement. God changes us and "conforms us to the image of Christ." Right this very moment, something is at work in us; we "are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18).

I remember what this transformation looks like. I recall 2 Peter 1:5-8 which outlines the best improvement model of any I've read anywhere. It goes like this:

"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature. . . For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

I have decades and decades ahead of me for growth. It's so exciting! With God's divine power (that's the key, the big secret), I make every effort to grow. Each day offers a new chance to increase faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love.

I do wonder how to "make every effort." I think about things in my natural pathway that offer opportunities for an increase in goodness, knowledge, self control, etc. Those things that challenge me most of all are the very things helping me possess in increasing measure a new kind of character.

Monday, September 29, 2014

When You See the Changing Leaves, Think of This

This morning, I remembered one of my favorite Live with Flair moments from October, 2011. It's the one where my friend, Cynthia taught me about a tree's habit. Every time I see a tree in Autumn, I think about how my life takes shape and what I do to hinder or help this shaping.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Your Best Habit

On the walk to school, my rurally-raised neighbor (who knows everything about the land) comments upon the beauty of various trees' habits.  She informs me that a tree's habit refers to its overall shape.

She identifies trees by their habits.  Some trees squat and spread lower to the ground:

Others rise tall into the sky as perfect vase shapes:

Some grow into beautiful ovals:

And some unfold against the sky like Japanese fans. 

But as I look around me, I notice something astounding.  Some trees in the forest don't squat or unfold.  Some don't rise up and spread their arms wide.

I learn that if other plants or objects crowd a tree, the intended habit changes.  It diminishes.  Stunted and pressed upon, the tree loses potential somehow.

I think about the simple and natural need for space.  We have an intended shape--our best habit--but when crowded and pressured, we change. 

I think about making room for my husband, children, friends, students--and myself--to unfold, to stretch wide.  Do I stifle?  Do I crowd?  What would it look like to give everybody some breathing room? 

Today, I'm making space for my best habit to take shape.  I want to unfold like a bright yellow fan.

Journal:  Do you feel like you've taken shape into your best habit?  What allowed this?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Perfect For You

The more women I meet, the more I love hearing how they have chosen to live their lives. I love all the different kinds of women I know:

I know women who homeschool and keep the home; I know women who work-full time or part-time; I know women on the mission field; I know women researchers, women with tenure, women who bake the best chocolate chip cookies the world will ever taste, women who run neighborhood groups, women who volunteer in their communities, women athletes, singers, poets, and scrapbookers. I know bloggers, bakers, coaches, cleaners, crafters. I know librarians, musicians, doctors, photographers, engineers, artists, scientists, and teachers. I know women who rescue animals. I know a mom with 8 children. I know women taking care of aging family members, women adopting children, and women fostering children.

I could list a thousand different women. Each life is perfect. Each life is her special calling. Lately I'm realizing how important it is not to box a woman in or compare her life to anyone else.

I love your life. It's perfect for you.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Pure Motive: Love

I've been thinking lately about how ambition governed so much of my twenties and thirties. Achievement and recognition were so important to me. I chased after prestige at every turn. Speaking and writing and teaching were tainted with the ulterior motive of needing to feel important.

When God healed those places in me that needed all that attention, I felt lost at sea. What now could motivate all the work and all the achievement? Could I still be me up there on the stage even though I no longer needed to be there? Who was this new woman and why would she do what she was doing? 

Love. Just love. I pray to be a pure and clear conduit of God's love. With myself out of the spotlight, I'm hopeful that God will teach me how to truly live a life of love. It feels profoundly different. It feels peaceful and free to love an audience and not need anything from them. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Changing Your Desires

This morning I remember the power and freedom of asking God to change my desires to conform to what He wants for my life. 

I read Philippians 2:13 where we learn this: "God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him."

I pray that the desire of my heart would conform to what pleases God. I pray this for my family. I know that all His paths are peace, so we travel on these paths. We pray our desires keep us here and not wandering on dark paths. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

You're In a Funk Because You're Not Writing

Sometimes my husband reminds me how happy I am when I'm writing novels (or anything really). If I'm in a funk, it's because I'm not writing. I propose that we might increase our well-being today if we set the pen to the page and create a character with a problem that needs solving. I propose that there's a great story inside of us that we must tell.

It can be short. It can be very short. Try reading these at work today, and you'll see what I mean.

As the weekend rolls in, think about a Saturday morning excursion into your own mind. Write it! Post it on Facebook! Start a blog where we might read weekly installments of your great story! Nothing needs to hold you back, not even publishers. You can publish it all yourself and sell it yourself.

I'm excited to try some short--very short--fiction in the coming weeks. I'm also gearing up to finally publish my own novels that everyone systematically rejected in the publishing world.  They are coming! Southern Fiction, Adult Contemporary, and a Young Adult novel are on the way. We can gorge ourselves on them.

And even if nobody reads them, I will. Even if nobody will ever read them, I will love writing them.

So will you. Write!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

You Missed Everything

My least favorite emails from students include these kinds of sentences: "I wasn't in class this morning. Let me know if I missed anything important." Or this: "I'm going to miss class Monday. Will I miss anything important?"

Yes. Yes, you will miss everything important. What will you miss?  I'm so glad you asked.

You will miss that moment that will never come again, with people who will never gather in this same configuration again, with words spoken by us all that won't leave our lips again in that same way. 

You will miss a comment by a student that could have changed your mind; you will miss talking to the one girl about something that might just make her your new best friend; you will miss a lesson on writing that might have inspired a novel or memoir that the world needs. You will miss writing something in your notebook that you'll keep for forty more years and read again when your own daughters take a writing class.

You will miss this. And we will miss this. 

We will miss your voice answering a question that unlocks something for someone else. We will miss the tilt of your head as you think about something and the way you tap your pencil like that. We will miss your insight. When you miss class, you miss you being you at that moment, in that place where verbs and semicolons dance in some spiritual place where students gather with coffee cups and bagels and notebooks and pens with a teacher whose entire life culminates in this moment when she holds the chalk and begins. 

So yes, you missed something. 

You missed everything. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Empowering Children to Manage Their Lives

As a Type-A, micromanaging type of mom who is on a journey to enjoy our home life without stressing everyone out, I'm learning how to empower my children to manage their lives.

It's hard. I want everyone to be productive, excellent, and organized. As a result of my zeal, I end up immensely disliking the stress I create around me.

Lately, I've realized I'm harming my daughters by not empowering them to live their lives. Micromanaging them steals this life skill from them. I know because I also teach college freshman who often confess that they talk to mom seven or eight times a day about their assignments and their lives.

I want to talk to my children when they are grown, but not that much.

This past week, I've made lists of what they must accomplish, but then I let them manage their time--for better or for worse. They are learning. During this new week, they make their own lists, and they manage their own time even better.

Meanwhile, I'm not hovering anymore. Once during the whole afternoon, I'll call out, "Does anyone need help managing her time? Does anyone need assistance?"

I'm still here, but I'm a different kind of mom. I'm so much happier letting this go.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Any Day Now, It's Coming

I'm awaiting the proofing copy of my book, Live with Flair: Seasons of Worship and Wonder. I hope to make it available sometime in October! I'm so excited to have (and to offer to you) this collection of lessons my heart learned these past five years.

I'm so thankful for each day now. I'm so attuned to each gift I can gather from the day, no matter how terrible the day seems. Any day and every day, I know how to live with flair. It took five years of practice--of sowing deeply into the belief that God is good and what He does is good, of uncovering the mystery and beauty of simple things--that now, every day indeed shimmers.

Looking back, it was a way of gathering back into my heart everything lost through those years of depression.

Today, I'm standing once again in my raspberry patch, and I gather each ripe thing.

I present a bowl of berries to my daughters to gobble up after school. I think of how, when they are my age, they might remember the way it felt to put each berry on their fingertips. I hope they remember the stain of it and the sweet pleasure of each berry popped into their mouths.

Meanwhile, I gather more and more. Each day, I gather and offer what I glean. When the book arrives to my doorstep, I will smile and know that God helped me gather well.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Late Blooming Rose

The roses on the garden trellis haven't bloomed for weeks. But this morning, we find the hugest bloom, right there where no bloom should be. It's astonishing because it blooms so late. All around us, everything has bloomed and is moving on to new stages: the tips of the oak leaves flare up with color; acorns fall and crack; it's cold enough for mittens. 

This rose bush lags behind. Yes, this is a late-bloomer indeed. 

We tell our daughters about the expression late bloomer in gardening and in life. If everyone else races on by in any kind of development--social, physical, or emotional--it's no cause for alarm. Your time will come. You will astonish and bring more beauty to the world precisely because of the timing of it all. While others fade, fall, and crack, you'll just be getting started! 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

When Isaiah 32:17 Floats in Your Brain

Sometimes Isaiah 32:17 floats in my brain on difficult days.

I remember the promise here that the fruit of righteousness is peace. If you look up the Hebrew word for "peace" in this verse, it's of course shalom! 

I learn that shalom refers to completeness, soundness, safety, wholeness, harmony, contentment, and a sense that "all is well" or "all is just as it should be."

If I lived out of this shalom reality, how different my attitude, how different my disposition! I receive this by faith (Christ's righteousness), but I also remember to keep in step with the Spirit because sin unsettles. It destroys that experience of harmony, wholeness, and well-being. I ask God, like David did, to expose "any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting."

The end of Isaiah 32:17 offers another fruit of righteousness: quietness and confidence forever. These Hebrew words mean "tranquil and undisturbed" and "complete security."

I receive the fruit of righteousness today. I let everything in me enter into shalom. Regardless of how unsettled I feel, I flip the switch of faith and chose to believe this reality is mine. It's here now, and I believe it.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Let Yourself Mellow

Today I learn about mellowing as I age. To mellow means to soften, and it comes from late Middle English (16th Century) origins denoting a soft, ripe, sweet fruit. Mellowing means to lose harshness and bitterness. It refers to relaxed, easy-going, and low-maintenance living.

Older women in my life talk about how they "mellowed" in their forties and fifties. They ripened into a slower pace and a less frenetic schedule. They forgive easily, release bitterness, and avoid drama. Most importantly, they find themselves needing less and less to prove themselves to others, to seek importance from achievement, and to explain themselves to other people.

I like getting older. I really, really do.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Out of the Bounty

Today we make raspberry sorbet! This was the recipe from my Italian Mamas Lunch back in 2011. It's delicious and so easy.

I realize that we have an abundance of raspberries; we're overflowing with them and freezing a bag a day. I'm thankful for what I can make from the bounty of them. I can be generous with this generous supply.

That's how it works best: We fill up with a generous supply from God and minister out of the overflow. It's easy, sweet, and satisfying because it comes from this kind of bounty.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's Disguised! It's Really Something Else!

I go to open the garage door, and I brush my hand against a dead leaf. But it's not a leaf. It's a moth disguised as a leaf. I only know because it flutters for a moment, and I see its little mouth and eyes. I snap a photo and let it fly away.

It's a moth! Look at how artfully disguised it is: The venation! The color! Even the crackled tips! How amazing! It's exactly the color, shape, and visual texture of the leaves in our yard that I crush gleefully beneath my shoes.

How? Oh, how do such marvelous things come about?

I remember once again that this day comes at us in many forms, obvious and hidden. We look carefully because the thing before us might just be something else entirely.

It might be blessing disguised as something we do not want and couldn't imagine. Look again. It's not what you think it is. Some Great Hand has crafted this treasure that isn't at all what we almost brushed away and crushed underfoot.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Peace in the Midst of Unresolved Things

Today my husband reminds me that we can have peace in the midst of unresolved issues. Our family loves to resolve things. We love resolution! We love processing life into neat categories and clean answers. We're learning, however, that sometimes we just can't settle relational or emotional issues right away. God asks us to stay under the weight of them, to trust Him, and to wait for wisdom.

It's another step towards maturity for me. Last year, I learned to have peace even while disappointing people. This year, I think God's teaching me to have peace even when things in my life cannot find resolution.

But I want resolution! I'm reminded that I can have peace when things around me don't feel peaceful. What faith it requires to claim that peace Jesus offers when I can't find peace in my external circumstances! I used to say, "If only this issue would work out. . ." or "If only I could settle this one thing. . " But we're learning that the "if only" statements--the ones that make God's promises somehow dependent on outward circumstances--are just pointless and untrue.

I can have peace in the midst of unresolved things because God sees, God is in control, and God offers wisdom and resolution in His time and in His way. I simply don't have to know everything or do anything right now.

I wait and embrace the peace--not just in the midst of--but even because of unresolved things that bring my dependence upon God into full resolution.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Every Week a Break: My 5 Favorite Crock Pot Recipes

This morning, I remember how much I love my crockpot. It's 40 degrees outside, and I just love that cozy feel of something cooking in the crockpot. I love coming home to that feeling that dinner's ready. Plus, with teaching and ministry events, I need those few nights when making dinner is one less thing I must do.

Here you go: (in order of awesomeness)

1. Pot Roast (Put in the crockpot on low, cover with a can of mushroom soup, and add a packet of french onion dip mix. Sliced onions, carrots, and potatoes optional and yummy. Serve with rolls and a salad.)

2. Pulled Pork BBQ (Put a pork loin in the crockpot with a can of soda and some beef broth. Cook all day on low. Before dinner, drain the pork, shred it, and add Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce. Serve on rolls with coleslaw.)

3. Taco Soup (Put frozen chicken breasts in crock pot with refried beans, frozen corn, jar of salsa, and chopped tomatoes. Cook on low all day. Shred chicken before serving. Top soup with sour cream, guacamole, and crushed tortilla chips.)

4. Spinach lasagna from Eat, Live, Run website.

5. Turkey Chili (Brown ground turkey and put in crockpot with cans of stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, beans--kidney or otherwise, some chopped onion, carrot, and peppers, and a packet of chili seasoning. Cook all day on low and serve with cornbread, chives, sour cream, and cheese.)

Enjoy the coming season with your crockpot! Take a break from making dinner each week!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Willingness to Wait

I read Henri Nouwen again today, and I find this quote: 

"A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”

I stay where I am and live the situation out to the full, whatever it is. There's something hidden here that God will reveal. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

An Answer to Why I Live in Future Fear

My friend shared with me this video that I had seen last year and had forgotten (thank you, Katie!). It's Dr. Brene Brown's interview with Oprah on the terror of joy. You must watch it! It will change you! Click here for the video: http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/Dr-Brene-Brown-on-Joy-Its-Terrifying-Video.

What I loved about this video is that Dr. Brown provides an answer to why I live in future fear. It's what she calls foreboding joy. It's a way of "dress-rehearsing tragedy so [I] beat vulnerability to the punch." Dr. Brown talks about how to heal from what another friend, Ceil, called, "all that wasted energy."

I do know the sheer terror of joy. I was snuggling in bed with both girls last night, laughing and hugging and enjoying them, and I had that moment of terror that I was happier than I had ever been in my whole life. Immediately, I could have chosen fear of losing this, but instead, like Dr. Brown teaches, I softened into the moment of joy and traveled the bright path of gratitude.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Healing from Your Future

Today I seek help for how much I'm dwelling on future catastrophes that haven't even happened yet. I'm worried that my children will get in accidents and perish. I'm imagining scenarios about my future life and finding myself filled with fear, sorrow, and anxiety for events that have not even happened. 

It's interesting to note that I've spent so many years in therapeutic settings in order to heal from the past and to stop dwelling on the past. In fact, I hardly ever think of the past. I don't ruminate, live in shame or regret, or pine for lost things. Praise God! I'm healed from my past!

However, I have yet to heal from my imagined future.

The two wise mentors I find today both say the exact same thing: "Heather, God has not asked you to endure the thing you are imagining. If this thing happens, He will give you the grace you need at that moment. Otherwise, take your thoughts captive and live in the present moment with the grace Jesus offers in that moment."

It's so hard! It's so strange to remember the beautiful present instead of living out of the past or the future. Today, I heal a bit more from my future. I ask God to strengthen me to do this, to release my tight grip, and to govern my mind's dark wandering.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Most College Freshmen Can't Remember 9-11

For the most part, college freshmen cannot remember the events of 9-11. They were five or six years old. For the first time as a professor, I'm remembering for them. Only a few--the ones who lived in Manhattan--remember any vivid details. Most remember being picked up from kindgergarten and adults gathered around the television all day, but they don't remember what it meant. They felt fear and confusion, but mostly, the day doesn't register in their minds.

They ask me what that day meant for me. I tell them, moment by moment, my memories of that clear, blue morning and how we were all changed forever. 

They grew up in this new world without having felt the America beforehand. 

So I remember for them. For the first time, I feel the weight of it and the burden of responsibility: We must remember for them. 

Dr. Heather Holleman
Department of English
The Pennsylvania State University 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Slow, Subtle Change

My friend and I walk about 3 miles, 3 times a week. We've been walking only 17 days. We started slowly--16 minute miles--but then improved our time to 13 minute miles. Then, after all this time, we now run for 1/2 a mile. We have grand plans for the future! Who knows where we'll end up? 

In all this zeal, we force ourselves to not overdo it. 

All day, I realize the wisdom of going slowly and not overdoing it as we seek to improve anything about our lives. I overdo most everything! I go full-steam ahead and damage myself and others in the process!

I love walking with my friend and learning the fine art of a slow, persevering kind of improvement. It's subtle. 

Subtle things, as you know, often hold the most wonderful and most beautiful truths. 

Today, I'm thankful for subtle, gentle change.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

You Will--When It's Worth It to You

Yesterday, I abandon my raspberry harvesting because the bees and thorns are too much for me. "It's not worth it today," I say, sadly eyeing the lush raspberries deep in the patch. I turn and go back into the house.

Today, my older daughter--fresh from middle school and exhausted to her core--asks for a vanilla-raspberry milkshake. I grab a bag of frozen berries and blend the most delicious shake topped off with a generous heap of fluffy whipped cream. 

I love my stored raspberries as I watch her smile and her relaxation. I put on my garden shoes and long pants and wade once again into the berry patch. It's worth it now. She's worth it; I'd endure thorn and sting for that lovely after-school, berry-stained, whipped-cream covered smile. 

As I'm out there, I remember what I do because I know it's worth it. If I'm not changing or growing or sacrificing or moving in a desired direction, it's because I fundamentally believe it's not worth it.

It's simple all of a sudden. People change when they know it's worth it to do so. Part of teaching and parenting is creating a world where it's worth it to learn, to work, to sacrifice, to love, to build community, to live honestly, to set goals, and to grow. When I see cynicism, stagnation, fear, boredom--the retreat from the good fruit awaiting us--I remember why it's worth it to venture bravely back in. 

It's worth it. There's a harvest to gather. It's painful and dangerous, but our love for God, for one another, and even for ourselves makes it worth it. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

It's 3:00 PM and I Haven't Paid Attention All Day

Normally by noon, the day explodes with moments of flair: acorns, late-blooming flowers, unusual creatures, brilliant comments from children, weather observations, or spiritual principles in dust or vacuums or toenails. 

On days that I set my mind to the task of wonder--of really paying attention--the day's treasures spread out like this. There's something to learn and notice and marvel over.

Other days, I realize the day has floated out of reach like a balloon I accidentally released from my hand. It's slipped on without me. By 3:00 PM, I'm chasing after it, finally aware of what it's worth and how much it meant to me.

This day moves on, and I take a moment to pay attention to its beauty and its lessons. This is the day that the Lord has made. . .

I notice the afternoon sunlight and the crisp whisper of autumn. Thank you, God. Thank you. I noticed. I remembered to pay attention and rejoice. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Your Story of His Goodness

All weekend, I've heard incredible stories of God's goodness to folks. I remember the verse from Psalm 31:19: "How great is your goodness which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men!"

It speaks of a current display of goodness (in the sight of men) coming from a storehouse of goodness for you.

Thinking of God's storehouse of goodness--a treasure chest with your name on it--makes me smile today. He bestows good things, right now.

As I collect these stories of goodness (in all forms, all disguises), I remember to thank God for this very great goodness. And I want to hear more and more stories of how God bestowed His goodness from that storehouse in the lives around me. He bestows in the sight of men so we might acknowledge and praise.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Oh, the Humidity!

The humidity makes it feel as if we're wading through the air. We stay warm because the conditions mean our skin's evaporative cooling process cannot work as quickly. As a result, we feel sticky and heavy. We're in an environment that makes us not work correctly. 

My daughter and I walk in the forest to collect leaves for her tree identification project. On the way home, we're slouched over, breathing heavily, and soaked with sweat. Ordinarily, we'd been running this same route with freedom and ease. But not today. The humidity sabotages us.

In the haze of humidity, when all hope seems lost and with a half mile left to go, a neighbor calls out: "Do you need to stop in for some air conditioning and a popsicle?"

We don't even respond. We just walk like zombies straight into that neighbor's home and sit in the kitchen. We drink ice water and suck on popsicles in the cool air conditioning.

I remember that when we're in environments that inhibit us, we must carry ourselves to places of rest and refreshment. And we must be the one offering refuge like my observant and compassionate neighbor.

We're stay a while and cool off. We return to normal.

We're new people when we leave.

Friday, September 5, 2014


Today I remember the blessing of childhood and the lightheartedness of it. Lighthearted means "cheerful and free from care." 

I think about the little children in my home--even though one is almost a teenager!--and I feel we've all been more serious and work-minded than cheerful and carefree. We have our lists and our activities, our obligations and our chores.

It doesn't feel lighthearted. 

So I go back to childhood:

It's a day for ice cream and games! It's time for laughter and freedom. Go play! Worry over nothing! I will finish the laundry and the baking, the tidying and the dusting. You, dear child, must go be a child. 

I suddenly recall Jesus reminding us to be like little children. We are lighthearted because he handles everything. You, dear child, must go be a child.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

It's Because It's True About You

Today I remember C.S. Lewis' argument in Mere Christianity that what annoys us most about others--what we can hardly tolerate in them--often reflects something true about ourselves as well.

That's why we can notice it so quickly. That's why we hate it.

C.S. Lewis writes about pride, for example, that "the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others."

I think of this as my friends or children complain about what they notice in other people. When my daughter notices how bossy someone is, it just might be because she tends towards bossiness herself. Or when a friend can't stand how someone else likes to be the center of attention, it just might be that this friend needs that kind of attention herself.

Living with flair means that when I point out a flaw in someone else, I immediately think that it's because it's also, in some way, true about me. I pray for us both. I love us both.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


This morning, the youngest swings on her tree swing before walking to school. My husband pushes her and then moves an old log that sits by the tree. Underneath? A dark brown toad with golden eyes.

I remember that hidden treasures exist just beneath the surface of this day, all golden around the edges.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Student Who Does This

Today the student who knew all of our names the very first day of class because of his incredible memory arrives in class at just the right time. It's so hot and muggy, and I'm feeling drained enough to curl up under the desk for a quick, cool nap. (Additionally, we're all still nervous and insecure around each other; we've just had three days of class time.)

But this student brings the laughter and the energy just when we're all fading. And then, I hear this: "Who wants to have lunch together after class?" He extends the invitation to one and all; he doesn't discriminate as his smile bounces from student to student. Now, everyone gathers to make plans like they're some family and not a class of freshmen randomly assembled. Everyone responds to his genuine invitation.

It feels that everyone has a place to go--to belong--and even if they couldn't make that particular lunch event, at least they knew they were wanted.

Now, they're all laughing and talking and connecting. It's the third day of class, and already, there's something special happening here.

Students who build community right there in class just make me happy.

Monday, September 1, 2014

I Don't Know What I Want

I'm almost finished culling for the summer portion of my Live with Flair book. I come upon this quote from two years ago, and I'm struck again by the truth of it. It's just this: "They received more than they knew to want."

For readers just joining us this year, I'm including the full text from June 26, 2012 below. What I love about rereading this blog is that it's true! Over the past two years, I've received from God more than I knew to want. He brought things into my life I didn't even know I wanted.

I'm learning that I don't know what I want. I just don't. That's why I find it so intriguing when Jesus asks that very first recorded question in the gospels, "What do you want?" I laugh and cry all at once. I imagine the disciples stammering around a bit, maybe even stuttering as they simply say, "Rabbi, where are you staying?"

In other words, they have no idea what they want. They just want to be with Jesus, to know where He's going to be. I think, after all this time, that's finally what I want too.

I'm listening online to Paige Benton Brown give a talk at a women's conference. I remember her from 1998 (back when she spoke at Camp Greystone to a group of us counselors). She always knew how to make the Bible come alive and apply it in ways I so desperately needed as a young woman.

So I tune in all these years later to hear her again. As she begins teaching from the Bible, she describes how when people encounter God, "they received more than they even knew to want."

They received more than they even knew to want.

I write the sentence in my journal and stop listening to anything else. I'm just so amazed by the truth of it: God gives what we don't even know we want yet.

We don't know to want it.

Our hearts have been instructed by so many false narratives that we don't even know to want the great things of God.

God wants to give what I don't even know to want. The thought astounds me again. I entrust myself to this God who knows what I don't know.